BAPTIST THOROUGH REFORMERS
GOD'S DISPLEASURE WITH
THOSE WHO REMAIN SINFULLY NETRAL
IN A WORK OF REFORM
Judges v. 23
"Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, Curse ye bitterly
the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord,
to the help of the Lord against the mighty."
almost every work of Reform there have been those who, while their judgments have been
convinced of the correctness of the views of the reforming party, have, nevertheless,
ingloriously consulted their own ease, and have chosen to occupy a neutral position during
the struggle, and thus be prepared, at the termination of the conflict, to avoid the
reproach of the Reformers, if unsuccessful, or share their honors, if triumphant. It was
this spirit that actuated the inhabitants of Meroz, who were anathematized by Jehovah for
the course they adopted. Those who are here referred to, were Israelites; their nation had
been mightily oppressed for twenty years by Jabin, the king of Canaan. This was during the
time that Deborah judged Israel. Wearied with oppression, the descendants of Abraham cried
unto the Lord for deliverance. He heard their cry, and directed them to go forth against
Sisera, the captain of the host of Jabin, promising to deliver their enemies into their
hand. The Merozites, desiring to retain the favor of the Canaanites, who were very
powerful, and yet not wishing to bear arms against their brethren, remained at home, and
occupied a position of shameful neutrality. Meanwhile. the hosts of Israel, under Barak,
having vanquished their enemies, returned in triumph, with songs of thanksgiving.
But the indolent, time-serving inhabitants of Meroz, learned that they conld not reject the claims of their country and their God with impunity. God was displeased with them; and instead of permitting them to share the triumph of their brethren, he places them under his malediction, and directs their own countrymen to bitterly execrate them: "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." The Israelites were engaged in God's work a work of Reform, The Merozites, who should have been interested in that work, and assisted in it, refused to do so. For this they were cursed by Jehovah. My theme is,
GOD'S DISPLEASURE WITH
THOSE WHO REMAIN
SINFULLY NEUTRAL IN A WORK OF REFORM.
dwelling on this topic, I will present for your consideration a few propositions which
will serve to elucidate it.
I. God carries on all Reforms throngh Human Instramentality. Ever since man fell, the work of Reform has been going on in the world, under the direction of Jehovah; and every work that tends to make man better and happier, and bring him back to entire comformity to God's will, is really His work, though carried on by human instrumentality. Thus, when he would disseminate the knowledge of his will and holy character among mankind, he raised up, and prepared, and used the Jewish nation, as the instruments, to whom a revelation of himself was entrusted. When that nation forgot him, and degenerated into idolatry, he raised up prophets to reform them. Elijah, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, were great Reformers. When they, the chosen and peculiar people of God, rejected the Messiah, and crucified the Saviour as an impostor, he did not turn from man, and seek angelic powers; but, throngh the apostles, he called the Gentiles into his kingdom, to be co-workers in the world's redemption. When the simplicity of Christianity became corrnpted by its connection with paganism, in the days of Constantine, he still employed human instrumentality to testify against this departure from the faith. When, at a later day, the Romish Church had corrupted every doctrine, and polluted, by her unholy touch, every ordinance of the Gospel, he raised up Luther, Zuingle, Calvin, and others, as the instruments of effecting the Protestant Reformation. When these Reforrned churches, still retaining somewhat of the spirit of Romanism, formed an unhallowed alliance with the State, and enlisted carnal weapons in their support, God brought forth the Baptists to assert the spirituality of Christ's kingdom, and the rights of conscienee, and the great Bible doctrine of religions liberty and individual responsibility to God. When the Christian church had forgotten the great command, " Go, teach all nations," God raised up William Carey, to draw their attention to it, and throngh him originated the sublime work of Modern Missions which bids fair to reform the world, and produce a complete moral revolution. Thus, in every reform, God has used human instrumentality; and thus, if infant baptism, and sprinkling be a perversion of his ordinance, (as we think, in the preceding Lectures we have clearly shown it to be,) he will reform it by human instrumentality.
II. In almost every Work of Reform, some have remained Sinfully Neutral. There is a difference, it must be admitted, between sinful enmity or direct opposition to a work, and indolent, selfish neutrality. It was wrong for the Canaanites to oppress the Israelites; but, it is difficult to decide, whether their active opposition was, under the circumstances, any more criminal than tlie inactivity of Meroz. The latter knew that it was their duty to aid their brethren. They knew they were right, and that they needed assistance; and they knew, also, that their neutrality might possibly be the occasion of their defeat. Still, they came not up to help them, but left them to struggle on alone. Thus it has often been, when God's servants have gone forth to engage in the work of Reform. The correctness of their principles, the purity of their motives, the benevolence of their designs, have forced the conviction on many who have witnessed their efforts, that they were right; and yet they have never moved a hand to aid them, or uttered a word to encourage them, but have contented themselves with occupying a merely neutral position. They do not openly oppose the work; they do not enroll themselves among its enemies; but they are not prepared to make the sacrifices which a noble and manly advocacy of the truth demands of them. They fear that they may sustain injury in their business, perhaps. The most wealthy and influential members of the community are opposed to the world, and they will withdraw their patronage. Or, they dread the sundering of social ties, it may be. Their relatives and friends are committed to that which the Reform aims to correct or remove, and they cannot bear the thought of arraying themselves against the errors which friends love; they esteem their relatives more highly than the truth. Or, the open advocacy of what they feel to be right, will subject them to reproach. They will be called weak-minded, changelings, fanatical, deserters. Or, they will be compelled to unite with a weak body, which is greatly in the minority, and heavy burdens will rest upon them. Or, they are not certain that the efforts of the reforming party will succeed, and they dread the disgrace of a defeat. They forget that it is more honorable to be defeated while contending for truth, than to be victorious on the side of error. These things all combine to lead them to practice a time-serving neutrality. Like the Merozites, they come not up to the help of the Lord, and thus incur his displeasure.
It was thus in the days of Nehemiah, when he gathered the Jews together to build the walls of Jerusalem; "The nobles put not their necks to the work of the Lord." It was thus in the days of Christ and the apostles. Thus it was, also, in later times. Who can tell how many, during the fierce persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes, the Romish Papacy, and the English Episcopacy, were led to adopt a neutral position, and act in direct opposition to what they knew to be right? So it is now; many persons see a thing to be right, and acknowledge it to be so; and yet they will not come up to the help of the Lord, because they must come up "against the mighty."
Thus it has often been with the Reform in which Baptists are engaged. A Baptist congregation has seldom been organized for any length of time in a Pedobaptist community, without leading many to the conclusion that they were more Scriptural and nearer to the Gospel pattern, than the Pedobaptists. While some Christians, acting in accordance with such convictions, have submitted to immersion, and boldly committed themselves to the cause of truth, others, equally convinced of the truth, have continued to practice a time-serving neutrality. Thus it may be, perchance, with some who read these Lectures. Convinced of the evils of infant baptism, and of the necessity and importance of its removal, they may choose, still, not to identify themselves with those who are laboring to effect what they feel to be riglit. Like Meroz, they will not come "up to the help of the Lord against the mighty."
III. God is necessarily Displeased with such Conduct. "Curse ye Meroz, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof." All sin is offensive to God, and occasions his displeasure; but sins against light and knowledge, are especially heinous in his sight. Such is the nature of the sin we are contemplating the neglect of known duty. A person may oppose a work of reform from conscientious motives, while he believes that work to be wrong; but let him be convinced that reform is necessary that the purity of the Church of Christ, the good of souls, and the glory of God are connected with its suceess, and he cannot then oppose it without guilt. A man whose judgment is thus convinced about a matter, occupies a far different and more responsible position than one who is in doubt concerning the propriety of it, or than he himself did before such conviction. He cannot remain in a neutral position, without sinning against conscience. Suppose a Romanist is convinced of the errors of Popery; he could not, after such conviction, remain in the Romish church, without the additional aggravation of sinning against his conscience. So of Pedobaptism, or any other error; when a person is convinced that it is wrong it becomes his duty to abandon it, and aid those who seek to exterminate it. God is always displeased with half-lieartedness in his service, and some of the severest denunciations of his Word are against those who occupy a merely neutral position.
In the exercise of this displeasure, God frequently withdraws the smile of his countenance. A sense of obligations violated, and duty neglected, prevents the enjoyment of his favor; and whether that duty be a great or small one, if wilfully neglected, God is displeased and the soul feels it. He sometimes sends temporal afflictions. A man neglects known duty, for fear his business will suffer; God brings reverses and losses upon him, against which, with all his cunning, he failed to secure himself. He consults the wishes of his friends; they prove false to him. He dreads to sever himself from his relatives; God removes them from him by death. Or, if none of these calamities come upon him, there are other consequences which cannot be avoided. Conscience will upbraid, and the mind will often be perplexed, and distracted with anxiety. Then, in the event of the success of the reforming party, such are always objects of shame and contempt. They are regarded as the mere chips and straws, that float with the current. They are never depended upon in times of trial; and thus they often bring upon themselves more keen reproach than the true Reformer ever suffers. He endures reproach for the Truth's sake; they suffer it justly, for their recreancy to the Truth. The Reformer glories in the reproach he is called to suffer it is his honor. They feel that they are dishonored, and deserve to be. They are generally disappointed in their expectations, and find that their wisdom is but folly, and their gain but loss. Look at the Merozites. What did they gain by their sinful neutrality? While Israel rejoice and triumph, Meroz is dishonored and execrated.
In concluding these Lectures, permit me to address, First, those who are members of the Baptist denomination. Brethren, great and important principles are involved in our action. Let us be faithful to the trust committed to us. On the propagation of our principles in this country, depends all that is dear to us as Christians, as Americans, as men. The Baptist element alone, in our country has preserved religious freedom and the rights of conscience. Baptists alone, are prepared consistently and succcssfully to meet aud oppose those various and gigantic forms of error, which retard the progress and prevent the triumphs of the Gospel. Let us stand faithfully by those hallowed truths in defence of which myriads have gone to the scaffold and the rack, and firm adherence to which dyed even American soil with Baptist blood. Let us come up "to the help of the Lord against the mighty," and effect a complete and thorongh reform, by the exaltation of pure Bible truth, unmixed with human inventions and the traditions of men!
Secondly, I address a word to those who are Baptists in sentiment, but who are not united with Baptist churches. Many such are found in almost every community. Why tarry ye? Are you not copying the conduct of Meroz? Beware, lest you incur God's displeasure, by your sinful neglect of known duty. "That servant who knew his Lord's will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes."
Thirdly, those not Pedobaptists. There are large numbers in Pedobaptist churches who, while they cannot see that immersion is essential to baptism, still do not believe that infants ought not to be baptized. To such I say, You are convinced that the baptism of infants is unscriptural and wrong. Why, then, continue in a church that teaches what you know is contrary to the Bible? Further, have you been baptized since infancy, yourselves? lf not, then, according to your own showing, you have not been scripturally baptized, and you are neglecting the first duty of the believer. "He that believeth and is baptized, shall he saved."
Finally, to those who are Pedobaptists I would say, If you have carefully read the preceding Lectures, you certainly can no longer wonder at the importance which Baptists attach to the proper subjects and mode of baptism. It is connected with views of the spirituality of Christ's kingdom, and individual responsibility, that are far from insignificant in their bearings. Be not surprised, then, if, moved with love to Christ, and love to the souls of men, they labor to induce investigation on this subject among Christians, that Pedobaptists inay proselyte themselves to Bible sentiments. "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good."
The Reformed Reader Home Page
Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved